3 Simple Steps to Turning Conflicts into Opportunities I learned something really important this week from watching a reality show. Yes, that’s right. While watching a married couple in the grips of an intense conflict, I realized three very important facts about conflicts and three simple steps to resolving them every time. Fact #1 – When we allow our saboteurs to interfere, conflict resolution is extremely unlikely. Our saboteurs are those habitual and automatic patterns of thinking that work against our best interests. Our saboteurs are our internal enemy. Everyone has saboteurs. They develop in early childhood to protect us from perceived physical and emotional threats. In the conflict I was witnessing on TV, the wife’s Controller saboteur needed to control the situation and her husband’s actions. The husband’s Avoider saboteur caused pent up feelings that festered and eventually erupted. Fact #2 – When we become stuck in our saboteur position during a conflict, we naturally create opposition in others. Our saboteur will vehemently defend our position to the bitter end and may even attack the position or character of the other party. This in turn triggers their saboteur, causing greater opposition and escalating emotions; a vicious negative cycle.
Image courtesy of Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.netFact #3 – When we engage our inner knowing, our deeper wisdom (sometimes referred to as our Higher Self, our Sage or our Captain), we can see the conflict as an opportunity for growth and a gift for building stronger relationships. So how do we shift from saboteur mode to Sage mode? Step #1 – Listen to and acknowledge the other side’s position. Many people in conflict sound like broken records, repeating themselves over and over again because they do not feel heard. When we do not feel heard, we are not willing to listen and the vicious cycle continues. But there is another choice. Rather than thinking about the next brilliant argument you will make in response to whatever is being said to you, try truly listening and acknowledging the other’s position. Repeat back what you heard in your own words, without offering solutions, to ensure understanding. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, it just conveys that you are seeking to understand. Once they feel totally heard, ask that they do the same for you. Listening and acknowledging immediately diffuses tension and sets the foundation for resolution. Step #2 – Empathize with the other’s position. We are often reluctant to do this because we worry that we will legitimize and encourage their position and downplay our own. Let that go. Empathy is not about analyzing or problem solving; it’s about feeling what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. Step #3 – Brainstorm solutions, narrow the choices, and prioritize actions. Moving to Step #3 without first moving through Step # 1 and #2 is usually a waste of time. Collaborating on a solution with your saboteurs engaged is like driving your car with four flat tires. Friction is high, there is little momentum and you are essentially stuck in one position. Resolving conflict with your Sage engaged is like installing racing slicks on your car. There’s high traction which creates huge momentum and a winning solution!
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe reality show couple, after much arguing, name-calling and character attacks, finally listened to each other, empathized with the other’s position and worked out a solution that both of them were happy with. When you are able to resolve conflicts using these three simple steps, you will bypass the emotional pain and drama, turning fights and disagreements into opportunities for ongoing learning. You will discover a great deal about yourself and be able to apply this knowledge to build strong and trusting relationships in all areas of your life.